Incredible witnesses
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2019 - 12:00am

Testimonial evidence to be believed must not only come from credible lips but must in itself be substantially credible. This is the gist of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in this case. Also discussed here is the general rule that appellate courts especially the SC, respects the factual findings of the lower court which has seen and observed the demeanor and reactions of witnesses while testifying and therefore in a better position to determine their credibility. This is the case of Michael. 

Michael was charged before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) with the crime of rape by the provincial prosecutor of the province where the alleged crime happened. The charge is mainly based on the complaint affidavit of Lexa, his ex-girlfriend. At the trial of the case, the prosecution and defense have contrasting versions of what happened.

According to Lexa, Michael became her boyfriend through text messages but their relationship lasted for only about eight months because they hardly saw each other after Lexa went to Manila to study. She broke up with Michael to concentrate on her studies.

Then she narrated that after the “simbang gabi”, she went home alone because her mother Mylene still went caroling with some church members at about 11:30 p.m. On reaching home to go to sleep, someone knocked at their door. Thinking it was her mother, she opened it and to her surprise, she saw Michael standing at the door who told her that he wanted to talk about renewing their relation. She was hesitant at first because Michael appeared to be drunk but eventually she let him in. After talking for about 45 minutes Lexa asked Michael to leave and he did. Lexa then entered her room but suddenly Michael appeared and sprayed something on her face that made her weak, dizzy and with blurred vision. Then Michael undressed her and touched various parts of her body until he was able to have sexual intercourse with her. Lexa could only cry until she lost consciousness.

Her mother also testified and said that at about 2 a.m. she arrived home and knocked at Lexa’s bedroom to check, but got no answer. Thus she opened the door using a key and saw Lexa naked and unconscious. She became suspicious when she noticed unfamiliar clothes on the floor. So, she started looking around and saw Michael under the bed in his underwear. She shouted for help waking up her sister Ethel who happened to be the barangay chairman of their village. Some barangay tanods came, moved Lexa to another room. She was awakened only by the screams of her brother Andrew who was gripping Michael by the bedroom window. Then the barangay tanods arrested Michael.

On the other hand, Michael testified and insisted that he did not rape Lexa because they freely had sexual intercourse considering that they still have mutual affection for each other even if they are no longer sweethearts.

The trial court however did not give credence to Michael’s defense and found him guilty of rape, sentencing him to life imprisonment and to pay civil indemnity and moral damages. This decision was also affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA).

On further appeal to the Supreme Court SC, the decision of the RTC as affirmed by the CA was reversed and set aside. The SC acquitted Michael on the ground of reasonable doubt. The SC said that although jurisprudence declares that it must respect the factual findings of the trial court and the CA, this case is an exception because the prosecution’s evidence has so many inconsistencies and incompatibilities with common experience, such that it is unable to see the unfiltered truth.

In this case the SC said that Michael is charged with rape for having carnal knowledge of a woman when she was deprived of reason or otherwise rendered unconscious according to Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Section 11 of RA 7659.

But according to the SC, Lexa’s testimony is at variance with what she said in her complaint-affidavit which she executed only hours after the incident. In her affidavit she said that she was fully conscious when Michael was raping her. She even described Michael’s pumping motion until he discharged into her. She even felt pain in her genitals and in other parts of her body, Lexa claimed in the affidavit that after it was over, her eyes felt heavy and she lost consciousness. When confronted, by Michaels’ counsel, Lexa could not offer any explanation. Lexa also said the Michael sprayed something into her that made her feel dizzy and weak but the prosecution never produced the spray can or bottle he used which the barangay chairman or the tanods could have seized and kept as evidenced. Surely Michael who only had his underwear on when arrested could not have concealed it. So it is doubtful that there has been some spraying of immobilizing drugs. In her affidavit Lexa also said that Michael asked to walk her home because he wanted to talk to her about their relationship. In her testimony however Lexa insisted tha she had no conversation with Michael prior to his showing up at their house. She also testified that she had no deep relationship with Michael because they seldom see each other. Yet when Michael came to their house, she let him stay for nearly an hour.

Just as dubious is the testimony of her mother Mylene. She said that on entering Lexa’s room, she saw Lexa naked in bed. She said she tried to rouse her daughter but she would not wake up. Then, seeing a man’s pants on the floor, she looked under the bed prompting her to cry for help. But on cross examination, she said that rather than rousing Lexa, she immediately screamed for help on seeing Michael under the bed. His son Andrew then came and brought Lexa into another room. And only when she started screaming for help that Lexa awoke. This shows that Lexa regained consciousness at about the time her mother saw Michael under the bed. Her version somehow corroborates Michael’s testimony in this regard.

It is therefore clear that Michael and Lexa lost control of themselves and really made love and they were caught by Mylene when she arrived home. Mother and daughter only made up their story to preserve Lexa’s dignity. So, Michael is not really guilty of rape (People vs Singson, G.R. 194719)

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